What Happened To The Nike Roshe Run?

August 28, 2022 by Joey Birch

What Happened To The Nike Roshe Run?

The Nike Roshe Run is a sneaker that holds a special place in almost everyone's heart. At the mention of the name, your mind gets cast back to a time when you’d see the minimal silhouette donning the feet of everyone from hardcore collectors to everyday people looking for a comfortable shoe. 

However, as with every sneaker, there’s inspiration and a story behind the Roshe which, while it peaked swiftly, will forever have a lasting effect on the sneaker industry with 2022 marking 10 years since the original release. 

Designed by Dylan Raasch, who is now the Senior Design Director at Nike, the Roshe was inspired by the Japanese Buddhist masters, who are given the title of Roshi, meaning: “​​the spiritual leader of a community of Zen Buddhist monks”. Initially developed in 2010, it took two years for the sneaker to be finalised.

 At the time of its debut the focus was still very much on basketball sneakers with the release of the Air Jordan 10 and the Air YEEZY 2. At this time, the hype surrounding Air Max has died down, meaning that it was only a matter of time before the trends came full circle to a running silhouette.

In an Instagram post in April, the month of the original release back in 2012, Raasch says:

In 2010, a minimalist running silhouette didn’t exist, not only within Nike, but within the entire footwear market. An opportunity had presented itself and I was open to the challenge of bringing a completely new concept to the table even though it had to be done in my free time. Obsessing the design over the following months, it was finally presented to the team, which unfortunately, was shot down immediately. As it’s not always easy to see the potential in a drawing, I cobbled together a sample, which once in people’s hands was officially put into the line for Summer 2012.

The Roshe Run was a refreshing change of pace for the sneaker industry, and the introduction of the silhouette was widely endorsed. After the initial design was pitched in 2010, the sneaker went through around 16 amendments to the outsole with an additional 50 changes to the upper to ensure that they were perfect. 

The technology behind the design is simple: cushioning, quarter support and heel support. This allowed Raasch to create a stripped-back sneaker with minimal manufacturing costs due to a lack of rubber moulds being needed in addition to the single piece of EVA foam being used for the outsole. Due to the simplicity, the sneaker was sold at £70, allowing for it to be a good go-to. 

The silhouette itself took various features of the Japanese Zen Garden into account with the outsole design referencing stepping stones, the insole designed to look and feel like a raked Zen Garden in addition to the original ‘Iguana’ colourway referencing the moss that grows around the temple. 

When the sneaker was released, there was no marketing done whatsoever. The sneakers were simply released on shelves, with the first store holding them being 21 Mercer in New York. Despite the lack of marketing, Raasch reminisces how there was a line outside the store ahead of the release, and the popularity surrounding the shoe going viral with communities including @teamroshe on Instagram creating platforms dedicated to the shoe which currently sits at 141,000 followers but was previously closer to half a million at the time.

Releasing in a huge variety of colourways, the Roshe Run became one of the most accessible sneakers on the market. By 2014, over 40 million pairs of the Roshe Run had been sold. 

Along the way, collaborations and new iterations of the model were created including a Roshe Run HI Sneakerboot, Hyperfuse Roshe Runs which included Nike’s Hyperfuse material as opposed to the flyknit used on the original, the Nike Roshe Run FB (FB standing for Futbol) with a special ‘YEEZY’ colourway referencing the Nike Air YEEZY 2 ‘Solar Red’ as well as an incredibly rare Fragment collaboration worn by Nike CEO Mark Parker upon his meeting with the president at the time, Barack Obama. 

While Nike’s simple yet innovative running sneaker design was on a large upward trajectory during 2014, it would begin to take a turn the following year. By December 2013, Kanye West had left Nike and it was confirmed that he was signing with adidas. However, at the time of the announcement little was known about what the two had planned. 

Fast forward to 2015, Ye and adidas unveil their first project as part of the YEEZY Season 1 fashion show at New York Fashion Week. Amongst a variety of footwear showcased, the most interesting was the adidas YEEZY Boost 350

Debuted in two colourways, the ‘Turtledove’ and ‘Pirate Black’, the 350 showcased a single Primeknit upper along with a grooved rubber midsole that encased adidas’ latest ‘Boost’ technology which was set to be the next innovation in comfort. 

The YEEZY 350 held a distinct similarity to the Nike Roshe Run, and this was not by chance. In a 2020 interview with Nick Cannon on ‘Cannon’s Class, West revealed: 

“When me [Kanye] and Virgil used to go and intern with Giuseppe Zanotti, and he was teaching us how to design shoes and everything, we would be in the airport and we saw this shoe by Nike called the Roshe. It was the No. 2 selling shoe that Nike had…I looked at that Roshe and I said, ‘I need to replace that shoe,’ and now when you go to the airport you definitely see 350s and you don’t really see the Roshe anymore.”

While the Nike Roshe Run was widely beloved by fans, the wave of popularity and hype surrounding Kanye West and his latest venture meant that the 350s took attention away from the silhouette that opened the door for the new form of running footwear. 

In addition to the introduction of the adidas YEEZY lineage which, while still seeing an incredible number of sales with maintained popularity is seeing its own troubles moving into 2022, the grip social media has on sneaker culture was the second blow that took the Roshe down. 

The main culprit for the downfall of the sneaker was Four Pins, a social media platform made by Complex and Lawrence Schlossman, the brand director at Grailed and cohost on the Throwing Fits podcast. Dedicated to fashion hot takes, and taking a satirical approach, the platform that was closed in 2016 was followed by over half a million dedicated fans (some of which got tattoos of the Four Pins logo to show their devotion) that effectively followed every word that the platform wrote. 

The platform decided that the Roshe Run was the sneaker worn by “the most swagless homie”, a meme that permeated throughout social media, eventually muddying people's perception of what was once a hugely popular release.

When discussing with Complex the reason the silhouette became the subject of the jokes, Schlossman said: 

“It was clearly super influential. It became a butt of the joke because there were so many. You could walk down the street and see 20 pairs in 20 minutes.”

This feeling was also shared around the buyers after Roshe’s began to sit on shelves due to Nike flooding the market with an almost overwhelming number of colourways in addition to adidas’ advancement in technology with the likes of the NMD and Ultraboost drawing further attention away from the Nike silhouette that couldn’t keep up.

Later in his post, Dylan Raasch discusses the moment that, for him, the Roshe died:

“By 2017 the market had begun to change, and it was rumoured that close to 100 million pairs of the Roshe had been sold and people were now looking for something different. Having designed over 22 different versions, the requests had finally come to an end and the shoe was dead, along with any remaining hype”.

Despite the original Nike Roshe Run no longer being in production, its essence is, and forever will be, felt within the footwear that it inspired. While other Nike silhouettes such as the Air Max 97, Air Force 1 and Air Spiridon are receiving/due to receive retroes to celebrate their anniversaries in 2022, it appears that Nike isn’t giving the Roshe the same treatment. 

Nevertheless, the silhouette will forever remain an iconic moment in time for many that has inspired generations to come. 

For more history on the biggest footwear silhouettes, brands and designers - check out the Kick Game blog